Napoléon et les stratèges de l’Antiquité

Bruno Colson


Did Napoleon refer to ancient strategists in his military decisions and in his thoughts on war? At the Brienne military school, he did not learn Greek, but he did learn some Latin. In the commentaries on Polybius by the chevalier de Folard, he discovered the most famous manoeuvres of Antiquity, those of Epaminondas at Leuctra and Mantinea, the envelopment of the Romans by Hannibal at Cannes and Caesar’s turning movement against Pompey’s lieutenants at Ilerda. It was perhaps Hannibal whom he admired most, as evidenced by a conversation in 1800 reported by the poet N.-L. Lemercier. Napoleon spoke more about the strategists of Antiquity when he was exiled to the island of Saint Helena. He used them as references to define the qualities of a general and to identify the “invariable principles of war”.

Parole chiave

Alexander the Great; art of war; Julius Caesar; Clausewitz; Hannibal; Napoleon; Polybius; strategy; tactics.

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